Novel ideas


The Bonesetter's Daughter (Flamingo £716.99) 00..

est known for her debut Bnovel, The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan’s focus in all her

novels to date has been the relationships between Chinese- American immigrants and their parents; specifically mothers and daughters. Around this core she weaves present day lives with glimpses of the past, and in The Bonesetter’s Daughter what starts out as one young woman’s story quickly shifts to become the deeper tale of her mother’s life.

Like Tan’s folk, we see ourselves as the central character in our own lives, relegating our parents to supporting roles, but this author’s skill is to change that perspective, revealing the events and secrets which have shaped our parents and which we are ignorant of. While the traditions and superstitions of China form the backdrop to Tan’s work, the themes are universal.

Like a river, The Bonesetter’s Daughter has different currents, letting the reader meander, before suddenly being pulled in a different direction. We are introduced to Ruth Young, a ghost writer living in San Francisco, having relationship troubles and worrying about her increasingly forgetful mother. The first half of the book tells her story,

complete with a series of events putting emotional distance between herself and her mother, before switching back 60 years to her mother LuLing’s

childhood. Set in a time when the ancient bones of the Peking man were

Tan displays real talent for imagery and history

magic to it, fitting in well in a land where dragons sleep in the mountains and fire and water battle to create fog. If you’re new to Amy Tan, this book will feel

refreshingly original. If you’ve read her previous novels,

then the experience feels like an old pair of slippers: warm,

First writes

Putting debut novelists under the microscope

James Sturz

Who he? Born lI‘ Nev. York. James Stur.’ graduated from Cornell in 1987 and went on to teach English in Bologna before becoming a staff writer on Villlli‘y Fair, He is now an established freelance JOurriaIist specialising in Italian politics. culture and trayel writing for such varied publications as The New. York Times and P/avtxfi. His debut Entitled Sasse. the novel is a kind of philosophical crime thriller. set in the scorching dusty heat of a backward South Eastern Italian crty called Mancanzano. where some Citizens still live in an anCient cave dwelling ghetto. The unnamed American narrator is part of a SCientific team who turn up to investigate the magnificent frescoes which are revealed when two naked dead

teenage s are found in one of the saSSi (cave dwellings). As the frescoes are gradually peeled away. the body count in the City rises and the outSiders find themselves ernbrorled iii the bizarre local culture

If you’ve read her previous novels, then the experience feels like an old pair of slippers

and unable to leave. Basically BaSing the book on his knowledge of the area. Sturz has

being discovered - having previously been used in medicine rather than archaeology - LuLing’s troubled childhood, in

comfortable and reassuring. But it does make you wonder how long can she continue to base her work around such a specific

which she is unaware of her

mother’s true identity, is brought vividly to life. Tan has a real talent for imagery and the historical aspect of her work is what excites her; this part of the book has a



Galloway Street (Doubleday £9.99) 0...

ltlI'IN I3tlt I.l (i1\i I OVVAY SIR I: ll

Economic and expressive tale

92 THE LIST 1—15 Mar 2001

In retraCing their footsteps and attempting to re-tell the past. authors can find themselves in danger of over- sentimentalisrng or false dramatising. John Boyle does neither here: raised in Paisley by first generation Irish Catholic immigrant parents. this is the true stOry of growing up in a developing industrial Scottish town.

It is 1915 and Boyle's father is a 'naWie'. a barer literate ex-soldier who struggles to provide for his wife and ever- expanding family. Their life is a frugal, Simple one of hand-me-down clothes and meagre mealtimes. the tail-end of rationing still taking its toll on the famin larder. YOung John. rrieanwhile. is a happy-go-Iucky child. adventuring around. uncovering the things typical to young boys male bravado. female anatomy as well as those perhaps more untypical or unpleasant: his first experience of death and Orange walks being two pertinent examples.

ThrOughout. Boyle touches on the strains of being among the few Catholics

subject matter? While Tan sticks

to what she knows the results are reliably high in quality, but it would be more interesting to see her breaking new ground. (Louisa Pearson)

in town but doesn't directly refer to any real negative experiences. other than being discouraged to follow 'the band'. His mother's distraught tones attempt to explain the negative implications of these colourful mUSICai fanfares.

We are thankfully spared the ham-listed ‘Oirish' isms that can creep into some lazier Celtic-focused texts and even Mrs Boyle's quaint phrases from ‘back home‘ are too few and far between to encroach on the flow of the prose.

In reVisiting Ireland at the book‘s conclusion, 80er resolves certain familial anomalies that have been bubbling unchecked in the years Since his departure from Paisley and Since his visit as a child to Ireland. This helps bring things to a compact and tidy conclusion.

Boyle's prose is economic. but also expressive en0ugh to allow well-defined characters to form. Galloway Street may not be momentoust dramatic. but it is gently eventful, illustrating how it‘s really the little things that ultimately change our lives. (Mark Robertson)

created a wonderfully evocative. funny, movrng and abswd viSion of rural Italian life both in modern times and through the ages.

Compare and contrast Imagine a cross between The Name Of The Rose and Captain CoreI/i's MandO/rn and y0u're getting there.

First line test ‘You woke me wrth laughter, I was dreaming of fish.'

(Doug Johnstonei

'L'E- Sasso IS pub/ished by Century priced f9 99


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